I opened my eyes this morning at 5:30 a.m. and laid in my bed, under my nice and warm blankets, as the cool breeze from the air conditioner blew up from the floor and beside me, making my blankets feel that much more relaxing. As I laid there, I stared up at my ceiling and began to think of the events that was to take place this particular day in my life. Work was a given, as it is every Monday through Saturday. However, I did not feel the drowsiness and sluggish feeling that has normally welcomed my mornings for the past couple of years.
This morning was different, because wrapped up inside this day was an oasis of creativity that I have not experienced, or more truthfully, have not allowed myself to have. Today was the day that I (L.B. Fox) was going into my daughter, Ruby’s, first grade class to talk with her and her classmates about Marky, Slash & Levy, Barney & Lexi and The Boondock Kids.
I then closed my eyes and laid still, thinking of how exciting this would be, all the while, being a tiny bit nervous. I was excited because I got to be the author in front of wonderful young readers and allow myself to not only get caught up in Barney & Lexi all over again, but bring these great children along for the ride as we would travel into our imaginations!
I climbed out of bed after six and made my way through our home, feeding two cats, a dog and two fish as I began my day. I dressed and made my way to my work, which I happily say, is only six blocks from my house, making for a promising location. Driving to work, (Yes, I drive, but have walked many times) I am not focused on my work at all but rather on 25 young students who will help me explore the magical and discover a new adventure.
Now, am I nervous? You bet I am. Although I would not allow it to come to the surface of my thinking, the thoughts remained of, what if, you know?? What if you bore them or what if they find Barney & Lexi boring? But to be honest, I was just too darn excited as I arrived at work and started my morning. The two hours before I would leave and meet my wife at home so that we could make our way to our children s school went buy quickly.
Work was very busy, as it has been for the past month. So busy in fact, that I did not make it home in time to meet my 9:30 a.m. time at the school. I could have easily waited on a million customers today but nothing could compare. This was a great day and wasn’t going to let a little fear slow me down. When the time had come, I rushed home and met my wife and the two of us went to the grade school.
Walking down the hallway to the classroom, I wondered if I would be nervous after so song but as I reached the door of Ruby’s class, I peered inside through the glass and into the classroom before knocking on the door. There I saw two reporters from different newspapers and Ms. Martha White, my daughters first grade teacher, making her way towards the door with a smile on her face.
As she opened the door, it looked, at first, as if there were only three students in the classroom. I thought to myself, “Oh, no, did they leave?” My wife, Marcey and I entered the classroom and I greeted the two reporters who had taken time out of their schedules to be there for this special occasion.
Then I turned around to notice that a recessed nook hid behind the door and in that area sat Ruby, in front of her class of 24 boys and girls who looked eager and excited. I sat my satchel and bag on an empty desk that sat by the door as Ms. White introduced me to her class. I watched as Ruby’s face turned three shades of red as I was first introduced as ‘Ruby’s Dad’. I knew that she was blushing because, as the only girl with three brothers, she has to work for every bit of attention and now she had to do nothing but sit there and have her time to shine as the daughter of the classroom guest. Ruby knew that her dad loved her so much that nothing would keep him from keeping his word to show up and talk with her class!
I then asked the children if they liked to write and tell stories, to which I heard a thunderous, “YES!” It felt great to hear there energy, although Ms. White had to kindly ask for inside voices. I was very curious, so I asked each student what they loved to write about, I got everything from dogs and cats, to scorpions and horses.
Then, I noticed that many of them were staring at my satchel and I found that Barney & Lexi had their heads sticking out it, one head was poked out each side of the flap. So I lifted up the flap and help Barney, my favorite Beagle Hound in the whole wide world, out of the satchel. Barney loves children in the worst way, so I asked if the kids would like to hold him. Every hand reached out as I let Ruby begin passing him around to her classmates. Then came Lexi, a unique cat if I ever knew one, popping up and begin to wave to the kids. Then, a sweet girl named Keely said, “Oh, kitty!”. They all said hi to Lexi as Ruby began to hand her around.
I then realized that I had a couple more stowaways inside my satchel. Marky, Slash & Levy wanted to be a part of this memorable visit. Being that Levy is a fox and that the stuffed one I have in my satchel looks a bit peculiar, I decided to ask the boys and girls what they thought Levy was without telling them. LOL, I heard, a weasel, a mouse and a squirrel. I could not help but laugh when I told them that he was a fox because they all admitted to me that they knew that and was only joking me.
I then asked them if they loved to write stories, many said yes. I then talked with the class about how much fun it is to write stories, because in stories, you can create anything their imaginations can dream up. I heard everything from dogs and cats, to scorpions and horses again. I then followed that up by showing the kids drawings from my portfolio. I showed a drawing of a ‘Whimsic’ from my current book, ‘The Boondock Kids’ to a loud “WOW!” The room then fell silent as I asked the class to imagine that this character had blue skin, white hair, was seven feet tall, wore a long black coat and float through the air. It was then, I looked to see a young boy in the front row with his jaw open and “Awesome” being the only word he could say.
Then I showed a picture of a ‘Firestarter’ from my second book, ‘The Return of Marky, Slash & Levy’. I told them that it was a troll that was completely cover with fire and had yellow and orange flames flashing from every direction. With that description, the class drew silent. Then I said, “Imagine that it is only a foot tall though”, as I put my hand one foot off of the floor. The room erupted with giggles and laughs because the kids had gone from thinking my character was a large and fearsome fireball, to a short and stubby flame.
I continued by asked, with a show of hands, just how many of the boys and girls loved to read. Every hand went up, which was amazing! I then leaned over to my black bag and began to reach inside as I asked them if they would be honest with me about something and give me their honest opinion. They all promised to be honest, curious as heck as to what I was going to pull out of my black bag! I removed the original manuscripts for my first book, ‘The Adventures of Marky, Slash & Levy’, my second book, ‘The Return of Marky, Slash & Levy’, my third, ‘Barney & Lexi: Lost In Lawrenceville’, my fourth book, ‘Marky, Slash & Levy Vs. The Doomsday Device’ and my fifth, ‘Marky, Slash & Levy: Search for the Heatseeker’. All together, at over 1,000 pages, the eyes of every student grew larger than silver dollars!
“Now,” I asked. “Who would like to read this for me?” A reply of heads shaking back and forth clearly was a big ‘No’. Then I asked if there school books were that big and giggles again were heard as the kids laughed and said no. I told the students that I was on my seventh story, ‘The Boondock Kids’ and that what they saw was only five stories. “That’s Crazy!” was a statement that I heard more than once at that point.
“Ok,” I said. “I have to know if you want you are really wanting your surprise?” Then the class began to yell, “Yes” loudly and everyone in the room knew they were ready. I first announce that I had a surprise for Ms. White. I handed Ruby a copy of my first three children’s books and asked her to take them to her. Ms. White was more than happy to have them. I then reached inside my black bag and took out 25 copies of Barney & Lexi. With one copy in my hand asked asked, “What wants a copy of this book to take home and read?” Every hand went up and several were saying, “Me, Me, I Do, I Do!”
It was then that Ms. White approached her class and asked, “Would everyone be even more excited if Ruby’s dad read you some of Barney and Lexi?” It was a unanimous ‘yes’ from the class and I could not stop smiling from the invitation to read from a book that I am so very proud of. It was the moment of truth, I was going to give them a small piece of Barney & Lexi and could only believe in my story and know they would enjoy hearing about them.
The room fell silent as I began on page one. I made eye contact with every single student as I read to them. I wanted every boy and girl to know that they were a part of this magical ride together and I was determined not to let a single child go home disappointed. As I read, I got into character and spoke just as Barney & Lexi would. The kids laughed at how Barney sounded silly and Lexi was rather snobbish as the two became lost in Lawrenceville.
Then I came to the moment in the book that the two became lost and left the class in a perfect cliffhanger! Everyone stared at me, and I knew that they enjoyed it. Ms. White then asked, “So, who wants the book?” every hand went up quickly and the young readers became anxious.
Ms. White then asked if I would make my way to the large desk at the back of the classroom. My wife and I made our way when Ms. White asked her students to get in a single file line and everyone would get a signed copy. The kids raced to get in line as I took out my pin to begin signing. With every student, I looked them in the eyes and asked them what their name was. I wrote there names and my “Never Stop Dreaming” motto, signed my name and dated the inside of the book. I handed each book back to its new owner and thanked them for being so nice and letting me come into their classroom. Signing my name was an honor for me because their happiness, coming from the gift of reading, is what I enjoy the most about being a children’s author. Children love to be thanked and appreciated and this class had turned into a family like environment in just over an hour.
Then, one by one, the children took their seats and began reading where I had left off in their books. I could not stop smiling as I made my way back towards my bag and satchel and collected Marky, Slash, Levy, Barney & Lexi. As I gathered my things, Ms. White spoke to her class and everyone thanked me, which melted my heart!
It was then time for lunch and the students were asked to line up by the door. As they lined up, my wife and I made our way towards the door. I then received high fives and fist bumps. Then came a hug from a young lady named Savannah. With that hug, I fought back tears and almost did not succeed in that. It meant so much to know that it meant so much to her!! Then came time to give my lovely daughter a kiss and hug goodbye for the afternoon. Still beaming, Ruby gave me a hug and said goodbye. My wife and I made our way back down the hall and out of the school. I felt as though I had just won a race and the students were my reward!!
I returned to my work for the remainder of the day and at five o’clock came home to one of the most wonderful surprises in the world! On my desk was 25 pieces of fan mail!! I sat down and jumped right into reading them. With each card, I would be telling a lie if I said that I was not warm all over. The kids loved Barney & Lexi and spoke volumes with their cards and letters! They will stay will me until the end!
Sometimes the greatest gift that is given from kindness, is the very fact that when it is given of free will and desire, it can touch someone in ways we can never imagine! You see, this was the last week of school for the summer and the last full day of Ms. White’s 25 year teaching career. To see these wonderful kids before they parted ways for the summer is something I will never forget and to be the last guest of Ms. White’s career means more to me than all of the money in the world! I am honored to be apart of the memories of a wonderful teaching career.
Now sitting here at this desk, excited to tell you all about it, it is but a memory. But oh, what a great memory it will always be!
Live With Passion!!